My position has recently changed and evolved quite a bit. I accepted a family pastor position after serving as a student pastor for seven years. This was a very difficult decision. It was tough for my wife and I, but we are confident that this was the plan that God had for us.
Now that I am technically somewhat out of the traditional “youth pastor” position, I look back over the last seven years and wish that I could do things a bit differently. Experience helps you so much. The longer you serve, the more you learn. I have entitled this post “five regrets I have from my years in youth ministry.” I have wrestled with the word “regret” when writing this post, but I finally settled on it. Now, I am not sitting up late at night agonizing over these things at all. In fact, I am totally over them, because you have to move on after you recognize mistakes. So, these are things that I would have done differently if I knew then what I know now about youth ministry.
1. Listened to experienced leaders—When you first start out right out of college, there are times when you think you have figured it out. You think you have arrived and you have the answers to the questions in student ministry. If I could go back and start over, I would for sure listen and have regular conversations with more experienced leaders in youth ministry. I would not just listen to them, but I would heed their advice and implement more of their ideas.
2. Acquired a love for reading sooner—One thing that grows your leadership development is reading. When I was growing up, I hated reading. When I first started in youth ministry, I still did not care for reading that much. Now, I love it. I wish that I had started reading consistently sooner than I did.
3. Demonstrated more grace to students—Sometimes in youth ministry, our expectations for students become so high (not always a bad thing) that we begin to become frustrated if the development of our students is not up to par with where we think they should be. In this case, we struggle to demonstrate grace to them. I wish I had of acted out of more grace at certain times in youth ministry. Jesus always demonstrated grace, and He is the model.
4. Balanced fun and seriousness more effectively—In youth ministry, everyone knows that students need to be able to have fun with you as their leader. The difficult part is balancing fun and the serious time. For example, if you are always fun and crazy with them, when the time comes where you have to discipline them, they will struggle to take you to seriously. Begin to balance this and make each time (fun and serious) very obvious to the students so they know when it is time to have fun and goof off and time to sit up and be serious! This also helps them recognize and look to you as their leader in serious times rather than just their friend.
5. Connected students into the local church—Like it or not, it is very easy for students to become disconnected with the local church. They are connected to the youth group, but not the local church in many cases (especially if their parents do not come to the church). I wish that I had connected them and had more of a strategic plan to connect them to the local church when I began in youth ministry.
Is there anything that you would add to the list?